Strachan keen to extend Sutton stay

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan is determined to keep Chris Sutton at Parkhead beyond the summer.

Sutton’s current deal ends in June but he has the option of a further 12 months and club chiefs are keen to open talks about extending his contract at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old has endured an injury-ravaged campaign and has made just seven starts in the Bank of Scotland Premier League this season.

Even so, he has been linked with a return to England, with former clubs Blackburn and Norwich reported to be monitoring his situation.

But Strachan insists he has no intention of paving the way for Sutton’s departure this summer.

Asked whether he is resigned to losing the versatile player, Strachan replied: “Not at all.

“I wouldn’t like to change anybody in this squad just now.

“I would like to add to it to make it even more competitive, that’s for sure.

“We’re very keen that Chris remains at the club and hopefully this can be achieved.”

Strachan insists his claims that he is committed to keeping Sutton at Parkhead are backed up by his decision to draft the Englishman back into the first team when available.

“From a playing point of view, any time he is fit, he plays,” stated the Celtic boss.

“The only time he didn’t play was at Inverness when he had a virus and it was his decision to be on the bench.

“Any other time if he is fit he isn’t even a sub, he goes directly into the team.

“Chris knows exactly what I think of him and that shows what I think of him. It’s not often you bring people directly into the team after long lay-offs.

“He’s a big, big player who we are keen to keep with us.”

Strachan insists the only changes he wants to bring to Parkhead are new faces but he concedes that will only happen by moving players on.

“It’s crazy period now, it really is,” he said.

“We’ve got about 150 players we’re looking at all over the world and then we’ve got to narrow it down to what we can and cannot afford and it might just come down to two or three people that we can bring in here.

“We could only use transfer money from wages which went out in the summer to balance the books. There was nothing taken from the bank as such.

“Whatever went out, we could use that and it will be the same again if that happens.

“If opportunities come along and there is a financial package with players who we feel can better the club we will do that.”

Celtic face Hearts in the SPL on New Year’s Day, with the Hoops just four points clear of their opponents at the top of the table.

Strachan is thrilled Celtic will head into 2006 in pole position but he is not surprised that Hearts, rather than Rangers, remain their closest rivals at this stage of the season.

“I’m delighted we’re at the top but I knew that Hearts had good players,” he said.

“Because of the financial clout they’ve been able to bring in real good players, just as Chelsea do, only in a more modest way.

“Hearts have been able to take their technical level up because of money.

“Both teams have been neck and neck. We wondered if it would still be that way and it is, so well done the two teams.

“It’s a big, big game for both sides.

“The two teams have tried to keep ahead of the pack and the players on both sides have done very well.”

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